XXVI. To JOHN GORDON OF RUSSO in the parish of Anwoth
MY WORTHY AND DEAR BROTHER, -- Misspend not your short sand-glass, which runneth very fast, seek your Lord in time. Let me obtain of you a letter under your hand, for a promise to God, by His grace, to take a new course of walking with God. Heaven is not at the next door; I find it hard to be a Christian. There is no little thrusting and thronging to thrust in at heaven's gates; it is a castle taken by force; -- Many shall strive to enter in, and shall not be able.'
I beseech and obtest you in the Lord, to make conscience of rash and passionate oaths, of raging and sudden avenging anger, of night drinking, of needless companionry, of Sabbath-breaking, of hurting any under you by word or deed, of hating your very enemies. Except ye receive the kingdom of God as a little child,' and be as meek and sober-minded as a babe, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of God.' That is a word which should touch you near, and make you stoop and cast yourself down, and make your great spirit fall. I know that this will not be easily done, but I recommend it to you, as you tender your part of the kingdom of heaven.
Brother, I may, from new experience, speak of Christ to you. Oh, if ye saw in Him what I see! A river of God's unseen joys has flowed from bank to brae over my soul since I parted with you. I wish that I wanted part, so being ye might have; that your soul might be sick of love for Christ, or rather satiated with Him. This clay-idol, the world, would seem to you then not worth a fig; time will eat you out of possession of it. When the eye-strings break, and the breath growth cold, and the imprisoned soul looketh out of the windows at the clay-house, ready to leap out into eternity, what would you then give for a lamp full of oil? Oh seek it now.
I desire you to correct and curb banning, swearing, lying, drinking, Sabbath-breaking, and idle spending of the Lord's day in absence from the kirk, as far as your authority reacheth in that parish.
I hear that a man is to be thrust into that place, to the which I have God's right. I know that ye should have a voice by God's word in that (Acts 1.15, 16, to the end; 6.3-5). Ye would be loath that any prelate should rout you out of your possession earthly; and this is your right. What I write to you, I write to your wife. Grace be with you.
Your loving pastor.
ABERDEEN, March 14, 1637
XXVII. To LADY HALHILL
DEAR AND CHRISTIAN LADY, -- I longed much to write to your Ladyship; but now the Lord offering a fit occasion I would not omit to do it. I cannot but acquaint your Ladyship with the kind dealing of Christ to my soul, in this house of my pilgrimage, that your Ladyship may know that He is as good as He is called. For at my first entry into this trial (being cast down and troubled with challenges and jealousies of His love, whose name and testimony I now bear in my bonds), I feared nothing more than that I was casten over the dyke of the vineyard, as a dry tree. But, blessed be His dear name, the dry tree was in the fire, and was not burnt; His dew came down and quickened the root of a withered plant. And now He is come again with joy, and has been pleased to feast His exiled and amicted prisoner with the joy of His consolations. Now I weep, but am not sad; I am chastened, but I die not; I have loss, but I want nothing; this water cannot drown me, this fire cannot burn me, because of the good-will of Him that dwelt in the Bush. The worst things of Christ, His reproaches, His cross, are better than Egypt's treasures. I would not give, nor exchange, my bonds for the prelates' velvets; nor my prison for their coaches; nor my sighs for all the world's laughter. This clay-idol, the world, has no great court in my soul. Christ has come and run away to heaven with my heart and my love, so that neither heart nor love is mine: I pray God, that Christ may keep both without reversion.
Remember my service to the laird, your husband, and to your son, my acquaintance. I wish that Christ had his young love, and that in the morning he would start to the gate, to seek that which the world knoweth not and therefore does not seek it. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
ABERDEEN, March 14, 1637
XXVIII. To PATRICK CARSEN
DEAR AND LOVING FRIEND, -- I cannot but, upon the opportunity of a bearer, exhort you to resign the love of your youth to Christ; and in this day, while your sun is high and your youth serveth you, to seek the Lord and His face. For there is nothing out of heaven so necessary for you as Christ. And ye cannot be ignorant but your days will end, and the night of death shall call you from the pleasures of this life: and a doom given out in death standeth for ever -- as long as God liveth! Youth, ordinarily, is a post and ready servant for Satan, to run errands; for it is a nest for lust, cursing, drunkenness, blaspheming of God, lying, pride, and vanity. Oh, that there were such an heart in you as to fear the Lord, and to dedicate your soul and body to His service! When the time cometh that your poor soul look out at your prison house of clay, to be set at liberty; then a good conscience, and your Lord's favor, shall be worth all the world's glory. Seek it as your garland and crown.
Grace be with you.
ABERDEEN, March 14, 1637
XXIX. To JOHN STUART, Provost of Aye
Inheriting considerable property from his father, Stuart was lavishly generous in support of those suffering persecution for conscience' sake. Later, owing to the ravages of plague he lost much of his money. He joined with Blair (Letter XVI) in the frustrated attempt to emigrate to America, which is referred to in the next letter. See also Letter XLIX.
MUCH HONORED AND DEAREST IN CHRIST, -- Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, be upon you.
I expected the comfort of a letter to a prisoner from you, see now. I am here, Sir, putting off a part of my inch of time; and when I awake first in the morning (which is always with great heaviness and sadness), this question is brought to my mind, Am I serving God or not?' Not that I doubt of the truth of this honorable cause wherein I am engaged; I dare venture into eternity, and before my Judge, that I now suffer for the truth -- because that I cannot endure that my Master, who is a freeborn King, should pay tribute to any of the shields or potsherds of the earth. Oh that I could hold the crown upon my princely King's head with my sinful arm, howbeit it should be struck from me in that service, from the shoulder-blade. But my closed mouth, my dumb Sabbaths, the memory of my communion with Christ, in many fair, fair days in Anwoth, whereas now my Master getteth no service of my tongue as then, has almost broken my faith in two halves. Yet in my deepest apprehensions of His anger, I see through a cloud that I am wrong. And beside, He has visited my soul and watered it with His comforts.
The great men, my friends that did for me, are dried up like winter-brooks of water. All say, No dealing for that man; his best will be to be gone out of the kingdom.' So I see they tire of me. But, believe me, I am most gladly content that Christ breaketh all my idols in pieces. It has put a new edge upon mv blunted love to Christ; I see that He is jealous of my love, and will have all to Himself. In a word, these six things are my burden: 1. I am not in the vineyard as others are; it may be, because Christ thinketh me a withered tree, not worth its room. But God forbid! 2. Woe, woe is coming upon my harlot-mother, this apostate kirk! The time is coming when we shall wish for doves' wings to flee and hide us. Oh, for the desolation of this land! 3. I see my dear Master Christ going His lone (as it were) mourning in sackcloth. His fainting friends fear that King Jesus shall lose the field. But He must carry the day. 4. My guiltiness and the sins of youth are come up against me, and they would come into the plea in my sufferings, as deserving causes in God's justice; but I pray God, for Christ's sake, that He may never give them that room. 5. Woe is me, that I cannot get my royal, dreadful, mighty, and glorious Prince of the kings of the earth set on high. Sir, ye may help me and pity me in this; and bow your knee, and bless His name, and desire others to do it, that He has been pleased, in my sufferings, to make Atheists, Papists, and enemies about me say, It is like that God is with this prisoner.' Let hell and the powers of hell (I care not) be let loose against me to do their worst, so being that Christ, and my Father, and His Father, be magnified in my sufferings. 6. Christ's love has pained me: for howbeit His presence has shamed me, and drowned me in debt, yet He often goes away when my love to Him is burning. He seemeth to look like a proud wooer, who will not look upon a poor match that is dying of love. I will not say He is lordly. But I know He is wise in hiding Himself from a child and a fool, who maketh an idol and a god of one of Christ's kisses, which is idolatry. I fear that I adore His comforts more than Himself, and that I love the apples of life better than the tree of life.
Sir, write to me. Commend me to your wife. Mercy be her portion. Grace be with you.
Yours, in his dearest Lord Jesus.
XXX. To JOIN STUART, Provost of Ayr
WORTHY AND DEAR BELOVED IN OUR LORD, -- Grace, mercy, and peace be to you. I was refreshed and comforted by your letter. What I wrote to you for your comfort, I do not remember. I wish I could help you to praise His great and holy name, who keepeth the feet of His saints and has numbered all your goings. I know our dearest Lord will pardon and pass by our honest errors and mistakes when we mind His honor; yet I know none of you have seen the other half and the hidden side of your wonderful return home to us again. I am confident you shall yet say that God's mercy blew your sails back to Ireland again.
Worthy and dear sir, I cannot but give you an account of my present state that you may go an errand for me to my high and royal Master. First, I am very often turning both the sides of my cross, especially my dumb and silent Sabbaths; not because I desire to find a defect in my Lord's love, but fear of guiltiness is a tale-bearer between me and Christ, and is still whispering ill thoughts of my Lord, to weaken my faith. I would rather a cloud went over my comforts than that my faith should be hurt; for if my Lord get no wrong by me, I verily desire grace not to care what becomes of me. Hence these thoughts awake with me in the morning and go to bed with me. O what service can a dumb body do in Christ's house! O I am a dry tree! If I might but speak to three or four herd boys of my worthy Master, I would be satisfied to be the meanest and most obscure of all the pastors in this land, and to live in any place, in any of Christ's basest outhouses! But He saith, Sirrah, I will not send you, I have no errands for you thereaway.' My desire to serve Him is sick of jealousy, lest He be unwilling to employ me Secondly, This is seconded by another. Oh! all that I have done in Anwoth, the fair work that my Master began there, is like a bird dying in the shell; and what will I then have to show of all my labour, in the day of my compearance before Him, when the Master of the vineyard calleth the laborers, and giveth them their hire? Thirdly, But truly, when Christ's sweet wind is in the right airth, I repent, and I pray Christ to take law burrows of my quarrelous unbelieving sadness and sorrow. But I wish He would give me grace to learn to go on my own feet and to learn to do without His comforts, and to give thanks and believe, when the sun is not in my firmament, and when my Well-beloved is from home, and gone another errand.
Now, for any resolution to go to any other kingdom, I dare not speak one word. My hopes of enlargement are cold, my hopes of reentry to my Master's ill-dressed vineyard again are far colder. I have no seat for my faith to sit upon but bare omnipotence and God's holy arm and goodwill. Here I desire to stay and ride at anchor and winter, while God send fair weather again. But there will be sad days see it come to that. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you.